I’m not entirely sure, but it seems a safe bet that Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon wasn’t referring to the Internal Revenue Service when he wrote his classic “Back Door Man.” But, as it turns out, the IRS is serving as a convenient back-door resource for the progressive movement to name and shame donors to causes and organizations opposed by leftist shareholder activists.

The IRS is proposing rules that will grant nonprofit organizations the option of disclosing donors of $250 or more.

Currently, charitable organizations are required to remit a “contemporaneous written acknowledgment” (CWA) to donors contributing $250 or more in cash, goods or services. Donors reference the CWA when filing an IRS 990 form for charitable contributions. The proposed rules would grant organizations the option of collecting donors’ Social Security numbers rather than remitting a CWA, and subsequently sending the donors’ information to the IRS.

Readers shouldn’t take your writer’s word on such an important manner. A more authoritative source is the National Association of Nonprofits, an organization comprised of state associations as well as more than 25,000 individual members, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. (more…)

tkIt sounds like the plot of a Hollywood production: Nuns dressing up as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and rescue woman and children from sexual abuse. But the organization of religious sisters called Talitha Kum, which translated from Aramaic means “arise child” (Mark 5:41), is real—and they’re expanding across the globe.

Talitha Kum, also known as the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, is a network within the International Union of Superiors General which originates from a project implemented in collaboration with International Organization for Migration and funded by the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the network of 1,100 sisters currently operates in about 80 countries but is expanding to apply their unusual approach to 140 countries:

Studzinski said the religious sisters working to combat trafficking would go to all lengths to rescue women, often dressing up as prostitutes and going out on the street to integrate themselves into brothels.

“These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy,” he said, adding that the low-key group preferred to focus on their rescue work rather than promotion.

“They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.”

The sisters were also proactive on trying to save children being sold into slavery by their parents, setting up a network of homes in Africa as well as in the Philippines, Brazil and India to shelter such children.

He said the religious sisters of Talitha Kum raised money to purchase these children.

“This is a new network of houses for children around the world who would otherwise be sold into slavery. It is shocking but it is real,” he said.

Studzinski said the network of religious sisters, that was in the process of expanding, also targeted slavery in the supply chain with sisters shedding their habits and working alongside locals for as little as 2 U.S. cents an hour to uncover abuses.

Read more . . .

(Via: Gene Veith)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 30, 2015

A Definition of Christian Charity
Cecil Bohanon, Indiana Policy Review

Kwang Jin Kim was born to a middle-class family in North Korea. In his book “Under the Same Sky” he gives a first-hand account of his family’s fall to destitution during the North Korean famine in the late 1990’s. Forced to sell all it had to get enough to eat, the family eventually splits up as they moved from relative to relative in a desperate attempt to survive.

Why George Washington Thought the Practice of Gratitude Was Essential for the American Character
Arthur Milikh, The Daily Signal

Our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively thought Thanksgiving sufficiently important to initiate its national celebration and to later revive this tradition.

Poll Watch: Democrats, Even Clinton Supporters, Warm to Socialism
Giovanni Russonello, New York Times

Fifty-six percent of those Democratic primary voters questioned said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy, versus 29 percent who took a negative view.

A Review of “Thinking Biblically About Business Ethics”
Andrew Spencer, TGC

One challenge in developing a biblical business ethic for the 21st century is that the marketplace has changed since the books of the Bible were written. There are principles and analogies that can be brought forward, but the cultural distance is significant.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 27, 2015

Black-Friday-LineToday is the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season. Here are five facts you should know about “Black Friday.”

1. The term “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad in the 1950s. According to Philadelphia newspaper reporter Joseph P. Barrett, “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season.” Barrettt first used the term in the city’s newspaper, the Evening Bulletin, in 1961 to refer to the traffic problems on that day. Local merchants complained to police commissioner Albert N. Brown about the negative association of the term, so Brown released a press release describing the day as “Big Friday.” By then it was too late; the media had already started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as  “Black Friday.”

2. Because so few people were aware of the origin of the term Black Friday, analternative explanation became popular: that it is the day on which retailers finally began to show a profit for the year (in accounting terms, moving from being “in the red” to “in the black”). The earliest use of this meaning, though, dates only to the early 1980s.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 27, 2015

Pope lands in Africa hoping to bridge Christian-Muslim faultlines
Philip Pullella and George Obulutsa , Reuters

Pope Francis said on Wednesday he wanted to offer “spiritual and material” support to Africans on his first tour of the continent, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic congregation and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions.

How Friendly Is Your State To Businesses? See the Rankings
David Allen, The Daily Signal

Last week, the Tax Foundation released its State Business Tax Climate Index for 2016. This annual report ranks all fifty states (plus D.C.) on how hospitable their tax systems are to businesses.

Supreme Court to consider a small town case with huge repercussions on the First Amendment rights of all Americans
Melinda Skea, The Becket Fund

The High Court will hear the case of a New Jersey police officer who was demoted for picking up a mayoral campaign sign for his bedridden mother. The case, which involves a bizarre story of small town politics, will affect fundamental First Amendment rights such as freedom of assembly. Becket asked the Court to protect the officer’s rights.

Stop Saying That Public School Teachers Are ‘Underpaid’
Jason Richwine, The Corner

One of the more enduring education-policy myths is that public-school teachers are “underpaid” on average, and therefore that raising teacher pay across the board would improve student achievement.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis appeals for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (n. 14) The encyclical also calls for “broader proposals” (n. 15), “a variety of proposals” (n.60), greater engagement between religion and science (n. 62) and among the sciences (n. 201), and bringing together scientific-technological language with that of the people (n. 143).

In this spirit of dialogue and engagement, the Acton Institute is organizing a half-day conference around the question, “Can free markets help us care for our common home?” The first session will examine the theological and philosophical foundations of Laudato Si’ while the second will look at specific economic, social and environmental issues from various perspectives, such as finance, agriculture and natural resource management. The conference will attempt to carry out the encyclical’s call for open and honest discussion of these and related areas, taking into account the principles of Catholic social teaching, Christian anthropology and stewardship, and the insights of natural and social sciences.

Below, Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico offers his personal invitation to the conference, which takes place in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on December 3, 2015.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FLOW Lord's PrayerIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Cheap Grace and Gratitude,” I extend the notion of “cheap grace” beyond the realm of special or saving grace to the more mundane, general gifts of common grace.

One of the long-standing criticisms of common grace is that it actually cheapens or devalues a proper understanding of special grace. That is, by describing the common gifts of God to all people as a form of “grace,” the distinctive work of salvation can be overshadowed or under-emphasized.

This criticism of the doctrine of common grace gets at something important: there is a recurring challenge to rightly order our loves and our appreciation for the diversity of God’s gifts. I take this concern about the relationship between common grace and special grace to be a version of the problem of relating nature and grace.

It is important, as I argue in the commentary, to appreciate the gracious foundation of all of creation. So it is a gift of God that we have the sun, rain, food, and shelter just as it is a gift of God that we have repentance, forgiveness of sins, and freedom in Christ.

But that isn’t to say that all gifts are the same. In the abstract I would much rather have forgiveness of sins than daily bread. As the Puritan John Flavel (c.1630–1691) put it, “God has mercies of all sorts to give, but Christ is the chief, the prime mercy of all mercies; O be not satisfied without that mercy.”

As it turns out, though, forgiveness of sins presupposes our existence, which requires (among other things) daily bread. Thus the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) observed that

if nature be not supported, men are not capable of other good. We pray for our daily bread before pardon and spiritual blessings; not as if it were better, but that nature is supposed before grace, and we cannot be Christians if we be not men: God hath so placed the soul in the body, that good or evil shall make its entrance by the bodily senses to the Soul.

In this way, special grace presupposes nature or the realities preserved through common grace. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck argued that grace restores nature. And Abraham Kuyper, in his writings on common grace in science and art, put it this way:

Scripture does not arrange both of those—the way of salvation and natural life—like two ticket windows next to each other, but continually weaves them together like threads, giving us a view of the world, its origin, its course within history, and its ultimate destiny, within which, as though within an invisible framework, the entire work of salvation occurs.

So today, this Thanksgiving, and every day, let us be thankful for all the good gifts that come from God. Being thankful for our daily bread, how much more thankful should we be for the forgiveness of sins!